Gruber: A moment of clarity regarding the raison d’etre for the App Store

Two good reads for the weekend. First, be sure to dig into Jim Dalrymple’s iOS 14 favorite features piece.

Then follow the headline link and read John Gruber’s powerful App Store essay. I’ll quote a few bits, but worth heading over to read the whole thing:

Feel free to file Google’s release this week of an update to their iPad Gmail app with support for split-screen multitasking under “better late than never”, but this is so late it borders on the absurd.


Five years to add support for a foundational element of the iPad user experience. And an email client is near the top of the list of the type of apps where someone would want to use split-screen. Five years.


I worry that it’s not tenable in the long run to expect Apple to continue striving to create well-crafted — let alone insanely great — software when so many of its users not only settle for, but perhaps even prefer, software that is, to put it kindly, garbage.


I’d like to see all the vim, vigor, and vigilance Apple applies to making sure no app on the App Store is making a dime without Apple getting three cents applied instead to making sure there aren’t any scams or ripoffs, and that popular apps support good-citizen-of-the-platform features within a reasonable amount of time after those features are introduced in the OS. I don’t know exactly how long “reasonable” is, but five fucking years for split-screen support ain’t it.


Imagine a world where the biggest fear developers had when submitting an app for review wasn’t whether they were offering Apple a sufficient cut of their revenue, but whether they were offering users a good enough native-to-the-platform experience.

And, finally:

Rather than watch Apple face antitrust regulators in the U.S. and Europe with a sense of dread, I’d watch with a sense of glee. “This company is abusing its market dominance to take an unfair share of our money” is an age-old complaint to government regulators. “This company is abusing its market dominance to force us to make our apps better for users” would be delightful new territory. Only Apple could do that.

Go read the whole post. There’s a lot more. It’s clearly born of epiphany.

At the core of the issue is a basic problem with being a public traded company. Once you put your company up for sale to the public, take public money to use as you will, you are beholden to those shareholders. You can’t help but treat the bottom line as a fiduciary responsibility. And there’s the rub.

Apple, and shareholders, made a ton of money on the iPhone and its wondrous ecosystem. But it’s a hard treadmill to escape. So as the smartphone market matured, Apple shifted to services. And the App Store is one of the more important pieces of that strategy.

No argument with Gruber’s idealism. And I do think it’s possible Apple’s hand will be forced by Antitrust investigation/regulation. But the financial forces, the pressure from shareholders for year-over-year growth, will not change. Some balancing force needs to come to bear here, pressure to make Apple value a world where, as John says, their most used apps are best-in-class.

Great food for thought from Gruber. Go read the whole thing.